TAK­ING IT TO THE FIELD

End-zone sten­cils, hel­met de­cals part of NFL’s so­cial-jus­tice ini­tia­tives

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY PATRICK FIN­LEY, STAFF RE­PORTER pfin­ley@suntimes.com | @patrick­fin­ley

NFL teams will add sym­bols to their end zones and hel­mets this sea­son as part of a leaguewide ef­fort to make clear its com­mit­ment to so­cial jus­tice.

NFL com­mis­sioner Roger Goodell said Tues­day that teams will sten­cil two phrases into the backs of their end zones — “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” — this sea­son. Ad­di­tion­ally, he said play­ers will be al­lowed to wear hel­met de­cals “bear­ing the names of the vic­tims” of po­lice vi­o­lence and sys­temic racism.

Be­fore ev­ery game, Goodell said, sta­di­ums will play the song “Lift Ev­ery Voice and Sing,” ac­com­pa­nied by video footage of so­cial-jus­tice work per­formed by both teams par­tic­i­pat­ing in the games.

“The NFL stands with the Black com­mu­nity,” Goodell said in a con­fer­ence call Tues­day af­ter­noon. “The play­ers, clubs and fans con­fronting sys­temic racism with tan­gi­ble and pro­duc­tive steps is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial. We will not re­lent in our work, and we will re­dou­ble our ef­forts to be cat­a­lysts for the ur­gent and sus­tain­able change that our so­ci­ety and com­mu­ni­ties so des­per­ately need.

“I’m so proud of ev­ery­one across our league and oth­ers that have taken a stand us­ing their voices and plat­forms to con­tinue to shine the spotlight on things that must change.”

Those ac­tions, and other more sub­stan­tial un­der­tak­ings such as the league’s vot­ing ini­tia­tive, are a far cry from the NFL’s re­ac­tion to 49ers quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick’s so­cialjus­tice protests four years ago.

Fol­low­ing an off­sea­son in which George Floyd was killed by a Min­neapo­lis po­lice of­fi­cer and Ja­cob Blake was shot and par­a­lyzed by a Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, po­lice of­fi­cer, NFL play­ers have said they would con­sider dif­fer­ent forms of protest once games be­gin next week.

Troy Vin­cent, the NFL’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions, was asked Tues­day if play­ers would walk out of Week 1 games. NBA play­ers re­fused to play play­off games last week be­fore re­turn­ing.

“They all have that choice, and that in­di­vid­ual right, to sit out,” Vin­cent said.

Goodell also touted the NFL’s pos­i­tive coro­n­avirus mo­men­tum. From Aug. 21-29, the NFL ad­min­is­tered 58,621 tests to a to­tal of 8,739 play­ers and team per­son­nel. There were only 10 new pos­i­tive tests — four play­ers and six team per­son­nel mem­bers.

He said the NFL has been “re­ally for­tu­nate” that the num­bers are low as the sea­son ap­proaches.

“We are not go­ing to get com­fort­able,” he said. “We will re­main vig­i­lant, re­silient, flex­i­ble and ba­si­cally adapt to cir­cum­stances as needed with pub­lic health as our No. 1 pri­or­ity, as we have all this off­sea­son.”

The NFL has up­dated its game­day pro­to­cols by re­quir­ing ev­ery coach and staff mem­ber in the bench area to wear a mask and re­duc­ing the size of each team’s travel party.

Own­ers also will have to fol­low COVID-19 test­ing re­quire­ments to gain ac­cess to the locker room, field or team char­ter.

Goodell said the league does not be­lieve that teams open­ing the sea­son with fans at their home games will have a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. He hopes that those, like the Bears, who open the sea­son in empty home sta­di­ums might even­tu­ally add fans.

The league is in a good po­si­tion to start and fin­ish the sea­son, he said.

“It will not be easy, and it will be dif­fer­ent,” he said. “But we are pre­pared.”

KAMIL KRZACZYNSK­I/AP

When the Bears next head to Sol­dier Field, they will see the phrases “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us’’ painted in the end zones.

Roger Goodell

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